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Tuesday, January 5, 2010
New year, new rants from you


What better way to ring in the new year than to rant! Great stuff again this week, puckheads. Here's a look at some of the best entries:

UnbiasedSportsFan: My rant: Pierre Lebrun is a Dallas Cowboys fan! What's up with that? I thought we were cool. Both Canadian. Both hockey fans. Both with body types no longer made for hockey. Both like Def Leppard. You've plugged my rants quite a bit lately ... and then I see you wearing a Star toque and reading that you want the NHL Classic in Dallas because you're a die-hard Cowboys fan. HARSH! I'm thinking of breaking up with you, and you probably never even knew that you had me. In a platonically journalistic sense, of course. Go Eagles! (Any given Sunday, well, Saturday at 8 p.m.)

My take: Sorry, bro; I've been a die-hard Cowboys fan since 1980. Fell in love with Tony Dorsett as an 8-year-old. As for Saturday night, I find it hard to believe the Boys can beat the Eagles three times in one season, but given the shellacking my team gave your team Sunday, it may just have to happen. :)

Wingsfan4013: Pierre, I wanna know what you think about the NHL's marketing techniques. I feel there's a lot of stuff they could be doing that they're missing out on, such as:

1. ESPN and ABC. Their contract extension with Versus and NBC bewildered me, and now that DirecTV and Versus have severed ties and Comcast bought NBC, I think the NHL would be insane to renew their contract after the 2010-11 season. Do you agree, or do you think they'll stay with the same broadcasting companies?

2. The Winter Classic. So much more they could do with this. I'm not a fan of James Taylor, but I like the fact that they brought him in for the national anthem. That said, I feel the NHL could immensely benefit off doing something like the halftime show the Super Bowl has. I think it'd bring in some non-NHL fans. Worst case scenario the ratings spike and the WC gets a better rating, best case scenario you might get some new hockey fans out of it.

3. Spreading out their teams. Am I the only one that feels California, New York and Florida have one too many hockey teams? Why not move a few teams to Seattle, a second Toronto or Houston? Phoenix needs to go as well. To me the nail in the coffin is the fact that they're 4th in the conference halfway through the season yet the only time they can come close to a sellout is when they play Detroit ... and there's a distinct "Let's go Red Wings" chant in the building.

4. Community service. I realize quite a few teams do this. I've heard that Pittsburgh does this, and I know Detroit is very high on getting their players involved, specifically in hospitals. Why not have players do required community service? Or do something like take a school class out, whether it be on ice or on cement, and teach them how to play hockey?

5. Research ways to make the sport less expensive. One of the biggest things I think is a problem with hockey is that it's not like basketball, where all you need is a ball and a net; it's a rich man's sport. Even if you just play raw street hockey, a pair of rollerblades and a stick is gonna cost you $200, and that's not including a net. If you wanna play ice hockey, you're talking $700 for a VERY basic set of gear, and usually over $1,000 to play a season of hockey (including practices and travel). Most people just can't afford the sport, which is the big reason I feel it suffers.

So how do you feel about this? And what other ways do you think the NHL can expand?

My take: Wingsfan, nice work laying out your concerns. Let's take a look at them one at a time:

1. As per ESPN policy, I can't comment on TV stuff. But I can say I hope the game returns to our network.

2. It's really hard not to like anything connected with the Winter Classic right now. The game keeps getting bigger, and the NHL is impressing me with the way it is handling and marketing this event. NHL COO John Collins is the brains behind the operation, and I think you really see his NFL background at play here with the way he's made the Winter Classic an "event." He's a big-picture thinker, and so far he's hit a home run with this baby. As for your Super Bowl halftime idea, believe me, given Collins' football background, if there's anything good he can glean from the Super Bowl, he will.

3. I've beaten the relocation chat too many times over the last year. I believe we should have a second team in Toronto, and I also like Seattle as a market. I'm not ready to pull the plug in Phoenix, though. I've got a gut feeling that if you finally iced a winner there, the fans will come out. As it is, attendance has begun to improve with the team winning games. Let's not be so quick to give up the desert just yet.

4. I don't think any athletes give more to the community than hockey players. Vincent Lecavalier helped build part of children's hospital, for goodness sake. Thing is, a lot of players don't seek attention for this. More to your point, maybe NHL teams should send out more information on what their players are up to with their charitable endeavors.

5. This is an excellent point on hockey equipment; it is very expensive. One thing that happens a lot in Canadian cities and towns is parents buy second-hand equipment. That has become popular. I'm not sure what the case is in the United States, but finding a way to make the equipment cheaper is a terrific idea. Because of the cost of equipment and travel for elite young players and camps, etc., the sport is somewhat out of reach for lower-income families, and that's not a good thing.

flyersfan1981: Pierre, I know the Winter Classic was a smashing hit. It was an incredible event and a great game (despite Burnside's skepticism that the Flyers were a poor choice). I know all of this because I was there. I had never been to Fenway Park and it was great to see that stadium. Every detail was handled well and the Bruins did a great job. The Bruins fans were welcoming and cordial to the large contingent of Flyers fans and that back-and-forth chants of Flyers-Bruins fans sent chills down my already chilly spine. The weather was perfect.

I understand the economics of supply and demand, and I also understand the NHL is a business. But this event was beyond overpriced. I acquired my tickets from the Flyers at a face value of $225 (paid $500 for the pair with taxes and such). I couldn't see anything. I know Fenway is old and had obstructed views, but I couldn't even see the one goal because of a support post and a foul pole. There was only one screen to see the game and, sure enough, that one was blocked, too. This event is marketed as a celebration of hockey's roots. But for those that support the NHL through thick and thin, to get overpriced tickets AT FACE VALUE is just plain wrong! ... They need to stop holding the event in old baseball stadiums because the sightlines are terrible for the fans paying good money.

My take: $500 for a pair of tickets is a lot of money indeed. Sometimes I wonder how pro sports stay in business. Surely, most people can't afford to pay that kind of money very often in a calendar year. But here's the crazy thing -- a lot of the Winter Classic tickets were going for up to $1,500 per ticket from Internet scalpers ... and people were buying them. So, while I agree the NHL is certainly making some cash off the average fan, the fact is the league could charge even more and it knows it.

dtones520: I'm sorry, but a Winter Classic in Dallas just doesn't sound right. ... Isn't the point of the Winter Classic to bring hockey back to its outdoor roots? Cold, snow, a biting wind -- that is where hockey started; not in the 60-70 degree heat of a Dallas winter. Not to mention that the Cowboys' stadium is practically indoors so that kind of puts a damper on the outdoor game thing as well. Plus, are we sure the Stars could even sell that game out? If Dallas wants to be involved, I think having them play Minnesota at the new University of Minnesota football stadium would be a great venue. Plus, all the Minnesota fans could see their North Stars jerseys one last time.

My take: I'm with you, I'd rather play the Winter Classic in northern climates, where outdoor hockey actually has a history. But the fact is, this thing is getting so huge, every NHL owner wants a piece of it now. And because of the amazing abilities of the ice plant machine the NHL bought two years ago, it's believed you can pretty much hold the game anywhere. Eventually, after we've had games in New York and Denver and Minnesota and other northern NHL markets, we're going to have to eventually accept that the Winter Classic will go to more southern markets. It's going happen one day.

jjg0257: I'm disappointed in Team USA for not taking Paul Gaustad. I like the amount of size and grit we have on our D, but our forwards are lacking that and of course we cannot overlook the Goose leads the league in faceoff percentage. He is a much better offensive player than people give him credit for and the most important part of killing penalties is winning the draw.

My take: I'm with you. I had Gaustad among my Team USA picks, and I can tell you the American management group debated long and hard about the Buffalo Sabres forward. He was on the bubble to the very end. GM Brian Burke loves his size and penalty-killing ability. But remember, injuries happen, and if any of the bottom six Team USA forwards gets hurt, the Goose may get the call.

joedirt113: Burke names Chris Drury to Team USA? Huh? I'd take Gomez before Drury, but not by much. The bigger snubs are Brian Gionta and Mike Modano. Come on! Gionta!? Sure, he's been hurt and doesn't play center, but come on. He's a natural goal scorer. How are you going to compete against Russia's firepower with just Kane and Kessel? Gionta is a leader, fast and can pot goals in bunches. Even Modano would have been a better choice for a variety of reasons, all of which Drury doesn't have.

My take: Gionta would have had to make the top-six forward group because Burke builds his teams with top-six skill and bottom-six grit/size. So who from Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner (or Bobby Ryan) would you drop for Gionta? I agree Gionta is a terrific player and he's fit in well with the Habs, but you need to be able to feel comfortable dropping one of those top-six forwards in order to put him on the team. It's not so easy when you realize that.

MadCaptains: Why is Chris Drury on the U.S. Olympic team? He has no role to play on the team. Ryan Kesler plays the same type of game as Drury and has produced three times as much points as Drury. Kesler also is a more determined player than Drury. He is a no-brainer choice to take over the shut down center role which Drury would be most suited for.

Drury's leadership is also not the right type needed for the NHL. He says he leads by example and is not a rah-rah locker room player. His performance with the Rangers has been very poor recently, so if he does lead by example, it's horrible leadership. I don't think there has been a player that has gotten by on reputation alone more that Chris Drury. He has a superstar-level contract and is talked about as such a great player with all the intangibles. In truth, he has had one very successful postseason playing third fiddle behind Sakic and Forsberg. This was also nine years ago so it should have little bearing on how he is now. His other success was being a co-leader of the Buffalo Sabres with the all-time great leader Danny Briere (sarcasm). He performed very well in that fluke season, but so did a lot of players which I wouldn't consider great (just look at some of the top goal scorers, amount of penalties).

Wouldn't it be better to have Chelios, Roenick, Modano, or some other vet have a non-playing role?

My take: I have to say that when I first got wind a few weeks ago that Drury would make Team USA, I was surprised given how much he's struggled this season. One thing I was told was there is concern in the Team USA camp about the amount of leadership/character among the young stars on the American team. It was believed that, despite his struggles, Drury would show the way for these younger stars. I saw Drury play some huge playoff games for the Sabres coming out the lockout. That's the Drury Team USA hopes to reincarnate come the Olympics.

cgsayshowyadoin: Pierre, why is Mike Komisarek on Team USA? Yes, I understand he plays a "tough" style that Brian Burke LOVES, but that happens to be exactly what he is doing with the Leafs and how is that working out this year? Burke could have replaced Komisarek with a defenseman such as Rob Scuderi, who saved the Penguins in the Cup finals last year, Zach Bogosian or Ron Hainsey, to spark some sort of offense from the American blue line. I just have to know why he picked one of the worst possible candidates.

My take: Komisarek has actually played a lot better of late after a slow start this season. He tried to do too much with the big new contract in the NHL's biggest hockey market. He's now doing what he does best -- put guys through the boards, block shots, etc. I'm OK with him being on Team USA because another trait I like about Komisarek is his leadership. This is a young team and Komisarek helps out in that area.

RedGiantDevil: I have a gripe for all of my fellow Devils fans who continue to gripe about the supposed lack of acknowledgment for our team. We have been getting plenty of attention recently despite the fact that the team represents a smaller portion of a highly competitive market in the NY/NJ/PA area. But who cares?!?! Just enjoy the successes, keep them near and dear to your heart, be proud, and remember, it's what happens in the playoffs that matters most!

My take: Thank you for this post. I'm getting tired of Devils fans bemoaning the lack of "respect" or "attention" for their team. I rank them top five in the ESPN.com Power Rankings every week I write them. They are for real, they are to be respected, they might win the Cup this season. Now stop crying!

JeffyMolly: My rant: probably like a lot of people who watch the Anaheim Ducks play, my rant is about how poorly their season is going with such high expectations going into the season. It's Selanne's last year, future Hall of Famer Koivu signing, Ducks trade and get Lupul back, and the Ducks boast one of the best front lines in hockey with Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry. As the season has progressed with the exception of Corey Perry having a great year, the Ducks' season has been filled with injuries to every major player and goaltending problems from the start. It's so frustrating seeing a team go so far last year and be held to such high expectations this year, unfold into a poor season.

My take: Well, imagine how I feel after I picked the Ducks to challenge the Sharks for the Pacific Division lead. I never envisioned this kind of collapse this season. I knew the losses of Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin would be important, but I thought James Wisniewski and Ryan Whitney could help fill that void a little. The blue line has been an issue, the goaltending inconsistent and the secondary scoring, once again, nonexistent. I witnessed the Ducks almost beating Detroit last spring in the second round of the playoffs, and never in my wildest dreams could have believed they'd come back and lay an egg like this for the 2009-10 season. It is truly one of the most surprising stories of the season.

cowace: Pierre, I have a broader complaint to make about the hockey world in general: why is the Canadian junior hockey system still as backwards it was 30 years ago? Specifically, why are these teams allowed to treat teenagers (more or less) as professional athletes (60-70 games, road travel, etc.) to the neglect of these players' educations? I realize of course that the answer is money, but to my mind that doesn't make it acceptable.

The NFL and NBA provide some pretty substantial incentives for all of their new entries to attend at least some college, and as a result the vast majorities of their players have both high school and college degrees. Hockey and baseball, however, are still stuck in the mindset that "draft 'em at age 18, play 'em 'til they quit" is acceptable, and as a result, at least according to my quick Google research, is that the players NHL (and MLB, to a much greater degree) are profoundly less educated than their counterparts. ... I really don't understand why the NHL allows this to happen. They have all the power in the world to stop it, but they continue to support this ridiculously archaic system.

My take: This is an interesting rant, and one that I agree with for the most part. I will say that from what I can gather, major junior hockey in Canada has improved over the years at encouraging its players to go to school; but, nevertheless, there's no question it lags compared to other sports. If I ever had a kid who was good enough to play at a high level, I would strongly recommend to them that they go the NCAA route instead of major junior in Canada. Hundreds of Canadian kids do just that, which at least gives them an education given the long odds of making the NHL.

MeettheMets53457: There is an obvious East Coast bias in every sport including the NHL where teams like Toronto and Montreal get tons of press coverage despite being average at best and where Ovechkin and Crosby dominate the media attention as well. In saying that, the Eastern Conference flat out stinks in comparison with the West, and nobody knows it unless you live in Chicago or San Jose. The cutoff to get in right now in the East is 43 points (NYR), while that would be good enough for 11th in the West, EIGHT points out of a playoff spot. The East is a flat-out joke and I am so sick and tired of all the coverage it gets. Ovechkin this, Crosby that, the West is winning the Cup this year with ease.

My take: I guess you don't read my blog very often. I have been writing about the West's superiority for years, and this season's Power Rankings have Western teams slotted higher at the top. The East is horribly top-heavy and certainly mediocre once you get past New Jersey, Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Boston.

ngk770: I'm a Florida Panthers season-ticket holder (save your laughter -- I have three sons who are hockey obsessed and we are originally from N.J.). Yes, we beat the Pens last night, but I am getting sick and tired of all the losing. When are there going to be changes around here? Will we ever get a real superstar here? Would it kill Nathan Horton to play with some consistency? Isn't a captain supposed to show some toughness or would it be too much to ask from Bryan McCabe to show a little mettle instead of coughing up the puck every time an opposing player so much as breathes in his direction? I AM TIRED OF LOSING! Do you hear me? T-I-R-E-D! What I would like is some hope. Do we have any chance of making the playoffs? HELP!

My take: Panthers fans definitely deserve better than what they've got over the past decade or so. It's been a tough road. The Roberto Luongo trade was the worst of the decade, and it's the kind of trade that's horribly difficult to climb back from. One thing I like about your team is the hiring of Peter DeBoer last season. He's a bright, young coach, and you should feel lucky to have him. The loss of star winger David Booth was a huge blow for your team this season. Goals were already going to be at a premium this season, and without Booth, well, that's a lot to ask. I still think this team has what it takes to make the playoffs, but it will be touch and go. Hang in there, my friend!